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Chess is for Checkmate!


  • 5 years ago · Quote · #1

    10curtainj

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    Hi All.

    This is my first post in... well a very long time so please bear with me. I don’t want this to be a rant post as such, but I feel there are a few things that need to be cleared up for chess players of all ages. It took me a while to finally realise this, and I came across it when I played a whole bunch of games against an old school friend. He was by far better than me, he could think quicker and his attacks were phenomenal. What was the interesting thing though is how he played the game. If he lost a knight for a pawn, or a rook early on – he was never fussed. He kept playing – and nine times out of ten he would mate me! I was always puzzled by this so I continued to play him to see if I could discover his secret.

    One day, after being thoroughly destroyed 4 times in a row, I couldn’t stand it – I exasperatedly exclaimed “How the hell do you do it? I had you a rook and a bishop down and yet you still come out on top!” and then he told me. He said, “Chess only has one objective, To checkmate the king. It doesn’t matter how you do it, or how quickly or long it takes. Just so long as you can accomplish this. Don’t try to think of advancing bit by bit, or try to win more material to gain the advantage. Think of directing all your thoughts to the king.”

    Now at first this sounded all like some philosophical crap to me. Nevertheless, I trialled it during the next instances I played him. I ended up achieving  5 wins from a total of 12 – I was usually lucky to get 2 out of 12. This opened many doors for me – I was no longer desperately trying to win of an exchange, I was moving my pieces to obtain a better positional advantage and build up a winning attack.

    Why I bring this up is because too many times I have played people, online and real life and they forget this! Chess is for checkmate! Build towards the main goal! A point that should be made though is don’t ignore the little things either. If you should gobble a pawn, first take into account how much of your attack you must sacrifice for it, and whether you risk being attacked yourself. Hopefully this wasn’t just wasted time and someone has realised that checkmate is all you have to do. Let the opponent make the mistake for you to gain extra material as he tries to block your mating attempts!

    Lastly, I want to share a game that had its ups and downs, but in which I tried to maintain a steady attack on his king. I won't comment on the game too much as I'm not sure of the moves and variations. With me, I see a fog of variations with no definite line - I go with my gut.

    Please comment!
  • 5 years ago · Quote · #2

    FlowerFlowers

    I like this, I agree :)  but I understand a resignation if the person is on a time crunch and has to go.

  • 5 years ago · Quote · #3

    DMX21x1

    Tactics, tactics, tactics and more tactics.

    I think the point of the game is to win.  Should the chance present itself I'll take it any way it comes.  However, I'm more of a tactical player myself.  Your friend said 'It doesn't matter how you do it or how quickly or long it takes.'  Very true, the end result is the same.  I just think theres a certain romanticism in delivering a clever, sneaky checkmate which a lot of players get caught up in needlessly. 

    Checkmate is just one way to win the game.  It looks and feels good but still requires input from the opponent to allow it to happen so its not as one sided as it seems.  You rely on the guy missing it completely or miscalculating. 

    I tend to assume my opponent can see the position on the board as I do.  Essentially I'm playing myself until a mistake is made.  If the opponent has a better understanding than me then I'll lose.  As I gain experience over the years I find that 8 times out of 10 my opponents can't see the board as I do, when a mistake comes I'm on it whether its a free pawn, mate in 6 or just something positional that will ensure victory somewhere down the line. 

    Seeking out possible avenues to checkmate is one of the obvious things that should be on your 'to do' list.  However, a strong opponent will also be considering one of the other things on that list, right at the top infact, 'Is my king safe?  Generally it is. 

    Unless its an ironclad route to checkmate I won't play it.  If there is a way out of it that my opponent may or may not see then its too risky (this depends on the opponent, you can come to know them so well that you become sure of what they can and cannot see).  The ability to calculate what the board is going to look like x moves ahead is where a lot of costly mistakes are made by very good players. 

    Instead of trying it anyway and hoping for the best I'll focus on tactical play and try to gain material and positional advantage.  Playing the computer on a high level taught me how to play like that because I found it impossible to checkmate it in open play, there simply is no surprise checkmate to be found against an opponent who can calculate 25 moves ahead so I gave up looking and started focusing on keeping parity in the game, with the transition from middle game to end game being my main concern.

    My victories were few but when I did win it was always due to having more pawns, or better placed pawns, then promotion and checkmate.  No romance in that.

    I find this approach works with higher rated human opponents too. 

  • 5 years ago · Quote · #4

    Hermes3

    10curtainj wrote:

     

    One day, after being thoroughly destroyed 4 times in a row, I couldn’t stand it – I exasperatedly exclaimed “How the hell do you do it? I had you a rook and a bishop down and yet you still come out on top!” and then he told me. He said, “Chess only has one objective, To checkmate the king. It doesn’t matter how you do it, or how quickly or long it takes. Just so long as you can accomplish this. Don’t try to think of advancing bit by bit, or try to win more material to gain the advantage. Think of directing all your thoughts to the king.”

    Please comment!


    Have you ever thought maybe his tactics were working under the conditions you described, because he was playing against players who is weaker than himself? Of course check mating your opponent is the goal, and all the effort for gaining material, and advancing bit by bit are done toward that goal. And of course if somebody is exchanging pieces blindly without understanding what is going on on the board they wont achieve much. On the other hand attacking recklessly, hoping to find a checkmate along the way usually ends up getting crushed as well, if one is playing against stronger opponents. 

    As a conclusion I think it's more about understanding the position and where it heads us. Sometimes we understand it, sometimes we don't. When we don't, it doesn't matter if we advance bit by bit, or try sharp attacks for making the last hit, we usually end up losing unless our opponents understanding is even worse than ours. 

  • 5 years ago · Quote · #5

    orangehonda

    It's true, in chess you aren't winning if you have more pieces, it's the whole position -- how hard are the pieces you do have working for you, how well are they coordinated, etc as compared to your opponent.  There are many advantages in chess, material is just one -- this bit of info was also eye opening for me.

    Many times though beginners fall into the trap of thinking chess is only playing for mate, which is not the case.  For an attack to be successful there are smaller goals you have to achieve first -- and in many positions there is no possibility of attack.  If your wild attacks work time and time again it's because your opponent is a poor player, can't play defensively, etc.

    Just remember to look at the whole board.  If you're a few pieces up vs that guy you play, make sure he wasn't sacrificing them to build up an unstoppable mate threat.  If he threatens mate in 2 with his  move but leave a knight hanging, don't take his knight "for free" -- if you can consider the whole board these tricks wont work on you.  On the other hand if you're up material and he doesn't have an attack going yet, consolidate your forces, make sure pieces are defending each other, your king is safe, etc.

  • 5 years ago · Quote · #6

    Fiveofswords

    attacking is good and all, of course, but see you put yourself in a situation where you simply would have lost if your opponent is better. Its easy to 'attack' if you dont mind getting a position which objectively is probably totally losing lol then depending on his errors. Its a little more difficult, and subtle, yet totally possible, to attack without ever giving away the draw. It just requires a little more patience and a little more positional understanding.

  • 5 years ago · Quote · #7

    10curtainj

    Hermes3 wrote:
    10curtainj wrote:

     

    One day, after being thoroughly destroyed 4 times in a row, I couldn’t stand it – I exasperatedly exclaimed “How the hell do you do it? I had you a rook and a bishop down and yet you still come out on top!” and then he told me. He said, “Chess only has one objective, To checkmate the king. It doesn’t matter how you do it, or how quickly or long it takes. Just so long as you can accomplish this. Don’t try to think of advancing bit by bit, or try to win more material to gain the advantage. Think of directing all your thoughts to the king.”

    Please comment!


    Have you ever thought maybe his tactics were working under the conditions you described, because he was playing against players who is weaker than himself? Of course check mating your opponent is the goal, and all the effort for gaining material, and advancing bit by bit are done toward that goal. And of course if somebody is exchanging pieces blindly without understanding what is going on on the board they wont achieve much. On the other hand attacking recklessly, hoping to find a checkmate along the way usually ends up getting crushed as well, if one is playing against stronger opponents. 

    As a conclusion I think it's more about understanding the position and where it heads us. Sometimes we understand it, sometimes we don't. When we don't, it doesn't matter if we advance bit by bit, or try sharp attacks for making the last hit, we usually end up losing unless our opponents understanding is even worse than ours. 


    I'm mainly a positional player - But I think you have to take the position to a mating attack. Chess games are generally boring when the end game comes within 30 moves and material is equal. And I knew more opening theory as end game - thing is, even when he was down on material (and not a pawn or two) he usually came back to beat me.

  • 5 years ago · Quote · #8

    AtahanT

    I don't belive in stuff like that. You have to play the board no matter what your preferences are. If you are a positional player that likes calm waters you simply can't turn down a move like Bxh7+ if the position allows it. Same with attacking players that like tactics: You can't go chase the king if he has all his pieces defending him and your pawns and pieces are pointing towards the wrong side of the board. If you end up being a slave to your preferences you'll just play bad chess.

  • 4 years ago · Quote · #9

    blackrabbitrabid

    The game attached is a good example. However, you have to be careful when allowing yourself to lose pieces that you don't lose the tempo of the game. If they escape from the middle game with their advantage in tact, it poses a very difficult end game fight for you.

  • 4 years ago · Quote · #10

    rockpeter

    Hey the guys in the candidates matches should try it out :)

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